As a child, there was a question that my mother routinely asked me, “Cicely, has anyone touched you inappropriately? Your daddy? Grandfather? Men at church? Delores is no joke, and one thing that she ingrained in me is that ANY man (blood or stranger) is capable of molesting you. In 2007, I began my high school teaching career, and as a former acquaintance would say, “Baby!” I have been debating if I should write about this topic, but due to recent news stories, I said, “Cicely, it’s time.”
Bottom line: Some of your biggest pedophiles are certified K12 educators, and parents, please do know that men AND women are capable of being predators.
I can hear the church members saying, “What chu say?” Can I get witness? Someone, please pull out the church tambourine.
When I accepted my first high school teaching assignment, I was wet behind the ears. I had 10 years of college teaching experience behind my belt. As Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson would sing, teaching high school was a “a whole new world.” Initially, the waters were absolutely treacherous, and I am thankful for the mentors who helped me navigate them. Before the end of my first year, I became close with a man, who for the purpose of this post, I will call Andrew. Andrew is African American and had been teaching within this Phoenix school district for years. We talked about a lot of issues impacting our students. I especially noted his reaction whenever we were in close proximity with a female colleague who happened to be in my department. I am a relatively liberal person, and I do not discriminate based upon anyone’s sexual orientation. Whenever this individual passed us, Andrew would say, “Look at Queen Dyke. Fucking pedophile. She should be in jail.” Finally, I mustered the courage to say, “Andrew, what is the story? Why do you harbor so much resentment towards her?” He said, “Her ass preyed on young girls, and she ended up being in a long-term relationship with a former student, and they currently live together. She’s a dirty bitch. The girl moved into her house one week after she graduated from high school.”
For the purpose of this post, her name is Dr. Smith.
It is important to note that Smith is what Christina Cauterucci would classify as a “cool teacher.” In her article, “When Cool Turns Creepy, “Ms. Cauterucci discusses how “popular teachers” are typically the “perpetrators” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/doublex/2016/03/classroom_sexual_harassment_often_comes_from_cool_teachers_and_professors.html).
Now, I was familiar with stories associated with male teachers and female students, but this was a new learning curve for me. Eventually, I asked other instructors - - - some who were department chairs about these “rumors,” and these women confirmed it. One informed me that her friend attempted to report this behavior to the District; however, she was silenced.
You read correctly. Teachers reported an improper relationship, and they were told, “We are not going down that path.” I watched this educator’s relationship with students – both her current ones as well as those, that she taught ( who eventually became teachers at the school). She especially preyed on any female who she sensed had issues with their mother.
When I received an email, where she said, “What is a pretty woman like you doing single?” I knew her motives, and if she could charm me, a heterosexual female, into believing that she genuinely wanted to serve as my mentor, I knew what she was capable of doing to a minor.
A countless number of stories have been written about Arizona male teachers who have had inappropriate relationships with students. After teaching high school, I can say that some men elect to become teachers in order to have easy access to their “prey.” Over the years, I only came across one male predator; indeed, that was one too many. For the purpose of this post, this male teacher’s name is Mr. Melendez. Upon meeting Melendez, a bell went off in my head. I said, “Watch out for this Pretty Ricky right here. Something is off with him.” I began to hear rumors about his inappropriate relationship with a former student. He was the “cool teacher,” that Cauterucci describes in her article. He was known for being able to effectively connect with students, and he was the type that was good at making a “connection” with students in their personal lives.
Oh, do not let me forget to say that he was allegedly a devout Christian.
Jesus, be a fence all around me.
I heard the rumors: “Dr. Cobb, you do know that Mr. Melendez had an inappropriate relationship with a former student; however, they couldn’t do anything to him, because the girl was 18.” Considering how melodramatic that students can be, I tried to ignore their remarks, but something in the back of my mind said, “This is one of your most honest students. There’s some truth here.”
I mustered the courage to speak with a colleague about it, and she said, “Cicely, the kids aren’t lying. Melendez did have an inappropriate relationship with a student, and rather than getting fired, he was removed from the classroom, and he was promoted. I have his former position.” This teacher was a Caucasian female. I eventually spoke with an African American male teacher about it, and he gave me the full story – Apparently, an assistant principal received word of the “relationship,” and he went to his superiors about the matter. Said administrators silenced him and informed him that they would take care of the situation. Mr. Melendez was promoted, and the whistleblower was sent to another high school within the District. Anytime that Melendez’s superiors needed something, he was literally “Johnny on the Spot.” For example, if they needed a bottle of water, and if that meant that he had to run across campus, in 110-degree weather, he did so, and he was back within two minutes. Mr. Melendez was known to approach former students (who had since graduated) and flirt with them. Acquaintances, whose children graduated from the school, informed me.
Arizona, y’all. Arizona.
Since I left K-12 education, these are the two educators that former students, their parents, and colleagues have asked me about: Dr. Smith and Mr. Melendez. People especially wanted to know about Mr. Melendez, because he was no longer at the school. Recently, while at the Apple store, I ran into a former colleague, and I said, “Where is Mr. Melendez? I cannot find any information pertaining to him online, and I heard that he is no longer teaching in your District.” He said, “Dr. Cobb, didn’t you hear? He was set to be promoted, and a position had been created for him, and some former student came out of the woodwork and admitted that she had an inappropriate relationship with him. “ If I wasn’t hold my friend’s baby, I would have passed out.
Indeed, predators have no place in K12 education, and the Districts, that support this behavior, should be sanctioned. The issue is that when honest teachers attempt to share this information with their District, they are labeled as a “whistleblower;” “crazy,” and the list goes on. In essence, how dare this problematic teacher report Mr. and Ms. Cool of inappropriate behavior?
We also discussed another ‘favorite teacher’, who had married a former student, of the high school. Said teacher left the District and began working at a private school. Per my former colleague, “Mr. Popular” was asked to leave the private school due to an inappropriate relationship with a student.
Popular teacher. Vulnerable student. Mr. Cool. Minor girl.
Questions to consider:
1. Parents, are you monitoring your children’s relationships with their teachers? Are there some instructors that seem to have simply too close of a bond with your child?
2. Administrators, are you protecting pedophiles? If so, why?
3. Districts, what kind of prescreening should you conduct, aside from a background check, to ensure that you are not hiring pedophiles?